As the first homegrown WPP agency, GroupM’s Mindshare has always had an entrepreneurial spirit.
“We were born in Asia when Madison Avenue and the high street of London told us you can't have a media independent,” said Mindshare’s US CEO, Adam Gerhart. “That provocateur and internal upstart mentality is pervasive in everything we do.”
The agency’s enterprising nature also comes in handy today. Born in the world of linear TV buying, Mindshare is embedding new talent, technology and capabilities to keep up with the rapidly changing needs of its clients.
In June, the agency absorbed performance marketing shop Neo@Ogilvy from WPP’s Ogilvy and added 1,000 specialists to its performance marketing division, known internally as FAST. Mindshare is also leaning into GroupM technology, including mPlatform, to become more data-driven, Gerhart said.
In addition to performance marketing, Mindshare has been honing its expertise in content, shopper marketing and ecommerce to help clients balance short-term ROI with the need for long-term brand building and equity.
“Clients are struggling with downward pressure on budgets,” Gerhart said. “We’ve always been about outcomes, but more and more we’re about how brand activity can drive conversions or leads.”
Gerhart spoke with AdExchanger.
AdExchanger: What’s challenging about being the CEO of a media agency right now?
ADAM GERHART: Being responsive to client needs, which are changing on a near-daily basis.
Our performance marketing division was born out of the need to help clients prioritize performance-based media and outcomes. It was a service that we felt was lacking in the marketplace. There are very good siloed performance and branding agencies. One of the biggest challenges our clients face is how to balance the two.
How is programmatic evolving at Mindshare as performance becomes more of a focus? Is TV still the bulk of your buying?
Our digital investment teams need to be constantly up to speed across disciplines. If a client is about performance, we need a through-the-line view across tactics and channels. FAST provides the opportunity to look across and optimize on the best potential outcomes.
How do you keep your agency brand relevant when your sister agencies are consolidating?
Change is inevitable. We envision more consolidation but, for us, change is based less on consolidation for efficiencies and more about being flexible and responsive to client needs. Adapting to their changing requirements, whether it’s by being more modular or offering new products and services, will keep us ahead of the game.
Unilever is one of your biggest clients. How has pressure in the CPG space affected business at Mindshare?
It’s forcing us to be more flexible. There are very few conversations these days where a client says, "We want to buy all of your products and services." More and more it’s, "We need help in affiliate marketing, or ecommerce or content development."
Conversations with CPGs in particular have been around what modular components, services or offerings we can bring to bolster certain outages they might have or areas of opportunity. We have a dedicated shopper marketing division that focuses on everything from Alexa skill building to best practices for Amazon search. We focus on Walmart’s ecommerce platform, Target’s ecommerce platform and the long tail of sites beyond that.
Amazon presents a huge opportunity. One of our CPG client’s share of market for a particular product in grocery is 12%, but their share of market on Amazon is 50%. It’s a trend they're leaning into far more aggressively than they have in the past. Our capabilities and services have to align to that and the way we leverage data has to come to the forefront.
How do you help clients balance the risk of going all-in on Amazon?
The decision to be on Amazon is not to be taken lightly. Many clients will test with one product before they go all-in. We work with them to develop a road map to do that – whether that's through messaging, search or display – around one product, before they hedge their bets too far.
As voice becomes more pronounced, you can start to see what we refer to as incidental loyalty: creating loyalty based on past behavior and purchases. Being served Amazon batteries from Alexa means you move away from brand names like Duracell and Energizer. That presents challenges for brands that are trying to maintain their footprint in ecommerce. It’s something brands are starting to become more acutely aware of.
This interview has been edited.